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How Does Verto Work?

Do you want to give your child the world, and a world-class education? Verto Education is the solution.

We recognize the desire for parents to equip their children with the skills and knowledge to succeed in today’s global world. A primary way for students to gain those skills and knowledge is through first-hand experience.

Verto Education seeks to meet the needs of both parents and students who are considering a gap year program. Here’s how the Verto program works:

  • You and your child will decide between a semester or year-long program.
  • Your child will set off on the adventure of a lifetime.
  • Upon returning to the U.S., your child will automatically matriculate into one of our partner institutions at the appropriate level (either as a second-semester freshman or as a sophomore depending on the length of program).

You can learn more about how we’ve structured the Verto program to provide both ‘real-world experience’ and education that fulfills general education requirements here.

The cost of Verto – and the college credits your child will earn – are all-inclusive. Learn more about program costs and requirements here.

Learn More About Verto

  • Our programs are specifically designed to provide a complete educational experience. While each component is a valuable learning experience on its own, the powerful nature of each program is the result of completing the entire itinerary and curriculum. The curriculum for each program is specifically designed to give students a snapshot of the interplay between governments, economies, social systems, and each host community.
  • Experiential learning is learning by doing. We believe that that meaningful and rich learning as well as personal development most often occurs in settings outside a traditional classroom. Our courses are unique, while accredited, experiential while rigorous, and engaging while transformative.
  • The foundation of our learning standards and credit for learning experiences are based on the following, as guided by the US Department of Education
    1. Higher education credit is only to be awarded for learning at that level.
    2. Credit is awarded for learning that demonstrates practical application.
    3. Determination of competence standards and the decision to award credit is made by qualified and credentialed academic subject experts (as defined by PhDs who have or do teach at the university level).
    4. Credit is fitting and appropriate to the academic context in which it is considered for acceptance at a US accredited institution of higher education
    5. Academic credit should be evaluated for advisement to avoid any duplication toward degree.
    6. Policies and procedures should be fully disclosed and available for review.
    7. Fees for credit award procedures should be for assessments and not based on the amount of credit to be awarded.
  • Assessment programs have been established for regular review procedures and a continuous improvement process.
  • Your experience in our program will earn you academic credit from an accredited U.S. four-year private college that will be applied to your core curriculum or general education requirements at the institution in which you enroll, putting you on track to graduate in four years with a bachelor’s degree.
    1. Eligible students are automatically accepted to an institution as part of the admissions process to the gap semester/year program.
    2. Students admitted to Verto will earn between 12-30 college credits abroad prior to enrollment and applicable to their bachelor’s degree.
    3. We offer a variety of international programs to provide students from high school through graduate school exciting and engaging learning.
    4. For the last ten years our provider gap year programs have empowered students to become lifelong global change makers through cutting edge in experiential learning with the safest and most impactful programs available.
    5. Program leaders take students out of the classroom to work alongside real experts to solve real world problems, all while gaining from incredible cultural immersion.

Mills College. Mills College is a non-profit, fully accredited private institution that was founded in 1852. It has a campus size of 135 acres in Oakland, California on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay. Mills has a US News & World Reports ranking in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges at #9 and the college offers more than 50 liberal arts majors. In 1852, workers who traveled west needed a school to educate their daughters, so they founded Mills, which became the first women’s college west of the Rocky Mountains. Today, the school offers more than 50 liberal arts majors to its roughly 1,500 undergraduate students. Both women and men may enroll in any of Mills’ nearly 15 graduate majors, which include the highly ranked Fine Arts program. Outside the classroom, students can attend events such as the annual Earth Day Fair, visit the Mills Art Museum, participate in NCAA athletics, or join any of the more than 50 student organizations. Mills also offers recreational opportunities through fitness classes, intramural sports, and the Cyclones varsity athletic teams.

  • Contemporary learning science and even the leading academic authorities for all universities in the US state that curricula should be applied, experiential, interactive and characterized by variability and uncertainty. We recognize that this is not a universal practice in traditional higher education.
  • Our academic programs are outstanding opportunities to learn about real issues that matter to real people in the real world. Sophocles noted, “One must learn by doing, for although you may think you know – you have no certainty, until you try and do.” Each of our programs combines work with local experts, deep cultural immersion in homestays, and an engaging and exciting seminar series. We believe deeply in experiential learning and a learner focused curriculum. In other words, your learning is about you. The curriculum helps students understand that connections to people, cultures and communities generate creativity, self-confidence, knowledge and a more holistic and meaningful perspective and mindset to life, society and even college life and the professions.
  • We are not a testing and examination environment, but we do want to assure you master your learning. It is also not about performing for other people. Rather, you’ll be surrounded by incredible learning opportunities and resources each day. You’ll be supported by Program Leaders who are exceptional educators. And, you’ll be part of a community of learners preparing for a lifetime of meaningful and fulfilling work.
  • Overview: The current full year program is comprised of a 12-day orientation, three 7-week units in separate countries, 1-week in Washington DC meeting with policy makers and NGOs, and a 12-day retreat in rural VA to complete your Presentation of Learning capstone projects.
  • The curriculum is built around the three core units depending on the location. For example, a cohort experience for one track includes Public Health, Guatemala Sustainability & Environment, and the country’s educational system, with three curricular strands that run throughout the entire program that include international development theory, a personal development segment, curriculum series, and the Intercultural Communication Seminar Series.

Rhetoric and Composition for the College Writer (4 credits)

Description: The ability to communicate effectively, clearly, and in the appropriate academic register is a fundamental part of a college education. ENG 001 is designed to enable students to write strong academic prose, to understand the complex relationship between language and rhetoric, and to negotiate the writing demands of an academic environment. The course helps students identify their own writing strengths to help students become successful college-level writers; some attention also paid to issues of oral communication of ideas. Course includes separately scheduled individual tutorial.


Identity, Politics & Equity (3 credits)

Description: This course challenges students to critically analyze how identity — as defined by others and oneself — shapes culture, politics, and the distribution of power. Drawing from media, texts, and intercultural experiences within homestays and fieldwork, students reflect on the dynamic roles of ethnicity, gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in shaping relationships within communities. Students will leave the course with critical understanding and inquiry tools to serve in creating greater equity in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to those between nations.


Justice, Equity, & Sustainability in Development Theory (3 credits)

Description: International development as a sector claims it is creating a better world. In this course, students examine a wide range of development theorists from around the world. By interrogating each author’s assumptions, the class aims to understand the underlying values of various approaches to development. Throughout, the class will reflect on how each author defines and pursues justice, equity, and sustainability in their theory and work. We’ll pay particular attention to how culture and positionality influences perspective and values.


Sustaining Food Systems & the Environment (3 credits)

Description: Creating and maintaining a sustainable relationship between humans and the environment is a complex and value laden process. This course examines the processes and values that affect sustainability with relation to food systems, production, consumption, and pollution. Through fieldwork with local farmers and investigations of consumption and pollution patterns in Guatemala and Costa Rica, students observe systems in their cultural, economic, political, and human contexts. Texts and seminars challenge students to examine the core assumptions and values that share various perspectives on environmental policies and resource management strategies.


Public Health in Culture & Context (3 credits)

Description: This course examines the cultural, political, economic, and geographic contexts of meeting public health needs. Through fieldwork with local public health agencies in Guatemala and living with families in a rural communities, students gain dynamic perspectives on how communities define and meet their public health needs. Seminars and readings include investigations of how policy, the pharmaceutical industry, economics, and history shape current challenges and opportunities.

  • Our first priority is the student learning experience and support of the student’s entire life while abroad, which is critical to making a difference in students’ lives. We are expert in supporting the post-high school journey that begins with departure, guides the transition, enables facilitated navigation and deliberately encourages the absorption of new environments to develop a sense of ownership, responsibility and care. We guide to the point where students feel they can achieve full membership in self-reliance, compassion and a grasp of their evolving identity, no matter the social, professional or academic community in which they enter.
  • We recognize that students need recognition and appreciation, and our staff realize that students need support from peers, teachers, staff, and family if they are to succeed. Support networks are built from day one, and are in place so students can begin to make important connections that will help them develop self-management and skills for the rest of their lives.
  • We know that the greater the quantity and quality of a student’s engagement and involvement, the more likely the student will succeed in college and beyond. As educators, we know that there is too much waiting for these experiences for traditional freshmen. The Verto program takes control of facilitating these experiences and develops successful strategies that will turn every experience into a meaningful step forward.
  • Our experience is based on experiential learning communities which often consist of thematically linked courses with a group of students. These communities establish a vital support network of thoughtful individuals who share similar learning experiences through diverse approaches and perspectives. This generates and deepens an authentic sense of civic engagement through service learning opportunities in the field, which contributes not only to the immediate community, but also provides students with an inherently active and relevant experience that promotes curiosity and interest in real lives as they are impacted by the environment, economics, sustainability, public health and education. In many instances members of the community serve as teachers where student support and mentoring are core functions of the Program Leaders.
  • Program Leaders at each location see the students almost every day of the program, either at the field work sites, in seminar, or in enrichment activities. Their relationships with the students span the formality of seminars to the informality of going for a run or wandering a market together. Program Leaders are deeply entrenched mentors in the lives of our students.
  • Mentoring involves explaining the working dynamics of both formal and informal systems within the community, organization and helping take care of basics such as getting around, filling out forms, managing the seminars, living etiquette, and helping manage the students schedule. We recognize that advising and mentoring helps increase confidence, enhance a feeling of community and connectivity, and increases assimilation and/or acculturation. Mentors are student advocates, especially in resolving any difficulties or conflicts that may arise, provide an empathetic ear to developmental, academic, and/or personal challenges and being ready with referrals to professional counselors, if needed. Our Mentoring Overview provides insight into more formal ways Program Leaders work with students. This process involves academic and personal goal setting, structured efforts to help students give and receive meaningful support with peers, and provide ongoing one on one support.

The Program Leaders participate in a full day of mental health training with a licensed Psychologist. They are provided a framework for identifying and supporting students with mental health needs. The Program Leaders also all complete a Wilderness First Aid course that includes international travel medicine tailored to the regions in which we operate.


Program Leaders are highly qualified educators with the experience to ensure safety and the highest quality program. At least one member of each Program Leader team has a minimum of a Master’s degree in education or a field related to international development. All of our Program Leaders have spent at least three years working with young people and has lived and worked abroad extensively. Upon joining the staff, Program Leaders receive intensive training, including Wilderness First Aid certification (a 20 hour advanced first-aid course). Program Leaders also receive consistent support from periodic professional development sessions based in the US.


Program Leader Profile


Kelly Sanders. Kelly graduated from North Carolina State University in 2011 with a B.A. in International Studies/International Relations. During her time at NC State, she had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Santander, Spain. This began a love for living abroad and learning Spanish. After graduation, she completed two years of AmeriCorps service in Chapel Hill, NC working with newly resettled refugees with a literacy center. Her AmeriCorps experience helped facilitate a cultural exchange within the United States, and inspired a new career path in International Education. In 2014, Kelly moved to Guatemala City to work with a Guatemalan women’s cooperative, Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, as the English Program Coordinator. She created English curriculum for a primary school and provided training for English teachers. She completed her M.A. in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland in 2017. She was a Graduate Coordinator with the office of Leadership and Community Service Learning at UMD. She worked with undergraduate students to help facilitate their leadership in various service-learning programs. She staff-advised Alternative Break experiences, conducted international research in Cuba, and worked as an instructor with the Global Communities program.

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